As EU nationals, French nationals enjoy free movement within the EU which means that they have the right to live and work in any member states without applying for a visa. Now that the UK has left the EU, this right no longer applies to EU nationals coming to the UK.
Thanks to your French citizenship, you have the right to enter the UK as a visitor/tourist. You can stay for up to 6 months at a time, but crucially, you cannot make the UK your main home nor undertake any paid work in the UK, except in very limited situations. Watch out also for the UK’s upcoming Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme which will mean all EU nationals (and some people of other nationalities) entering the UK as a visitor need to obtain approval before travel – much like the US ESTA. The ETA will be phased in during 2023.
In this post-Brexit landscape, is it important to consider the different options you have as a French national to come work in the UK in order to ensure that you do not breach any UK immigration laws.
EU Settlement Scheme ("EUSS")
The EUSS allows EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, who were residing or had resided in the UK before 1 January 2021, and their family members to retain their right to live and work in the UK without the need for a UK visa.
The deadline to apply to the EUSS was 30 June 2021. The EUSS team does however still accept late applications if you can evidence ‘reasonable grounds’ for missing the deadline.
An application under the EUSS for settled or pre-settled status is free of charge. If successful, you will have the right to live and work freely in the UK.
If you have resided in the UK for 5 continuous years without being absent for more than 6 months in a 12-month period (some exceptions apply such as absences due to COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training and overseas postings), you can be eligible for settled status (a type of indefinite leave to remain). Otherwise, you could be eligible for pre-settled status if you resided in the UK before 1 January 2021 and have not been absent for more than 2 years.
If you hold settled status for 12 months or hold settled status and are married to a British national, you may be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen. You can find more information on British naturalisation here.
The EUSS remains the best option for French nationals who are eligible and wish to live and work in the UK. It means that you will not be tied to a specific employer, you will have the freedom to live and work in the UK without restrictions on what you can do.
However, as mentioned above, the scheme officially ended on 30 June 2021. Our Immigration team at Kingsley Napley LLP helps French nationals to assess if they are eligible and make applications under the EUSS. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you think you may be eligible.
Work permit: Skilled Worker visa
A Skilled Worker visa is the most popular option for hiring French nationals in the UK. If you wish to obtain one you will need to secure a role with a UK company that holds a sponsor licence.
There are certain requirements for a Skilled Worker visa, including being paid at least the minimum salary and having a job at the appropriate skill level. For example, you cannot apply for a Skilled Worker visa to come to the UK and be a waiter/waitress, as this job is not deemed skilled enough by the Home Office to be eligible for a work permit in the UK.
Another important requirement to consider is the English language requirement. You must be able to evidence that you can communicate in English at a minimum level of B1. This can be met through holding a UK degree, passing an approved English language test or holding a degree taught in English and having this assessed by a company called Ecctis.
Skilled Worker visas can be granted for up to 5 years at a time and can be renewed indefinitely provided all the requirements are met. After 5 years in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa, you can be eligible to apply for settlement (also called Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK. A Skilled Worker visa can also be issued for a short duration.
You also have the option to bring your family (partner/spouse and children under 18 years old) with you on a Skilled Worker visa. They will need to apply for a visa as your dependants. You will need to pay for each visa application (which can be quite expensive!) and your employer will also need to pay for what is called the Immigration Skills Charge.
This visa ties you to the UK company that is sponsoring you. If you wish to change to a role in another company, you will need to apply for a new visa. We advise and assist UK companies and workers daily with Skilled Worker visa applications so feel free to contact us should you require any assistance.
Internship visa: Temporary Worker (Government Authorised Exchange) visa
If you would like to carry out an internship or work experience in the UK, the Temporary Worker (Government Authorised Exchange) visa is the best option. However, this is not open to all industries.
A company does not need to have a sponsor licence in order for you to work for them on this visa. The sponsorship is provided by an endorsing body which will ensure you meet the requirements for the visa in the application process. Unfortunately, there is no endorsing body for the hospitality sector so you cannot be sponsored to undertake an internship or work experience as a chef for example.
If you do not already have a work experience placement arranged, certain endorsing bodies such as BUNAC offer a service that matches interns with roles in the UK. In any event, you will need to pay a fee for the endorsement and for the visa application.
The Temporary Worker (Government Authorised Exchange) visa only allows you to come to the UK to work for a short period of time, a maximum of 12 months.